By Sascha Ryner
The 2018 Australian Commonwealth Games Swim Team will take to the pool today ready to race and set to embrace the expected sell-out home crowd at the Optus Aquatic Centre on the Gold Coast.
From Thursday April 5 to Tuesday April 10 the stars of the pool will unite as they step up behind the blocks to take on some of the best swimmers in the world.
While Australia boasts Olympic gold medallists Mack Horton and Kyle Chalmers plus Paralympic gold medallists Ellie Cole, Lakeisha Patterson, Brenden Hall and a host of world championship superstars, like six-time medallist in 2017 Emma McKeon and world champion Emily Seebohm – they will still need to bring their A-game to the Gold Coast.
Canada will have sprint specialist and 100m freestyle Olympic gold medallist Penny Oleksiak and barnstorming-backstrokers Hilary Caldwell and Kylie Masse along with para-swimmers Aurelie Rivard and Katarina Roxon.
England’s Adam Peaty will be tough to beat in the breaststroke as the current Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth champion and world record holder, and joining him is the previous Olympic champion, two-time world champion and former world record holder in South Africa’s Cameron Van Der Burgh.
Despite the world-class competition from within the Commonwealth, Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren was optimistic of the team’s chances on the Gold Coast and said it would be a special moment for the team to race in Australia, for Australia.
“I think we’re all expecting good performances. That’s what we all trained for and worked hard for is to qualify for this, because obviously it’s a dream to represent your country on home soil in the Commonwealth Games,” Verhaeren said.
“I think it’s very special, so everybody is prepared very well and everybody wants to perform and achieve. So that’s the expectation.
“Gold Coast is showing that it definitely is one of the best by putting up a great village and all the facilities are magnificent.”
After taking a sabbatical in 2017 a reinvigorated Cate Campbell said the opportunity to race in front of a home crowd was something special and urged the fans to get behind the team.
“I’ve never had a home crowd advantage and I think that we saw it in Glasgow in 2014, the Scots just lifted,” Campbell said.
“There was something in the air that got them ready to swim fast. I’m really hoping that we feel that same energy out there on pool deck in a couple of days.
With swimming one of the first sports to kick off the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Campbell said the Dolphins relished the opportunity to set the standard and then support the other sports from the stands.
“It’s great swimming in the first week, it means you’ve got the second week to go out and support all the other teams.
“Yeah, we do set the standard of the meet but I don’t think Australia has ever been beaten in the pool, and I don’t think that this team is going to let that record fall.”
Australia won 19 of the 44 swimming gold medals on offer at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and took home 22 golds four years earlier in Delhi. England was second in the swimming medal tally at Glasgow 2014, with Canada third.
The Commonwealth Games is one of the only major international events where both able-bodied and Para-sport athletes compete together on the same team. Paralympian and rising star Lakeisha Patterson said the opportunity to race as a united Dolphins Swim Team and as a wider Commonwealth Games team was amazing.
“I’m absolutely loving it! The Commonwealth Games is the only opportunity where they have Paralympic and able-bodied competitors that are able to compete alongside each other,” Patterson said.
“We obviously have our own separate events and classes but it’s just awesome to be a part of a team within a broader team.
“We certainly don’t get to experience that very often and it really emulates our Dolphins values of ‘our team’.”
The heats will start at 10:30am with finals from 7:30pm, broadcast on Network Seven nation-wide.